New Delhi: Justifying the decision of charging Lok Sabha MP K.R. Krishnam Raju with sedition, the Andhra Pradesh government Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the parliamentarian consistently and consciously abused his official position.
In an over 100-page affidavit opposing Raju’s bail plea, the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government said that he attempted to create enmity between two groups in Andhra Pradesh and also caused disaffection towards the elected government.
Raju had won the 2019 General Election from the Narsapuram Lok Sabha constituency on the ruling YSR Congress Party ticket. However, soon after, he had a falling out with the party and began publicly attacking CM Reddy and the party on their decisions.
To demonstrate that Raju had “gone much beyond the exercise of a right of fair criticism of the government”, the state has provided English transcripts of 15 speeches delivered by the MP, which run for 77 pages, in its affidavit.
Furthermore, the affidavit also cited the rejected bail pleas of activists like Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj and Akhil Gogoi to point out a technical flaw in his plea.
According to the state government, the top court had refused to exercise its discretion in bail matters involving sedition charges in all these cases because no other court had considered their case on merit till then.
The appropriate forum where Raju should apply for bail is the trial court, it said.
Raju had moved the top court after he was denied relief on 15 May by the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
He was arrested by the Andhra Pradesh Crime Investigation Department (CID) on 14 May, following the registration of a sedition case against him and two Telugu news channels. The media houses, on 18 May, moved the apex court seeking contempt against the state government.
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Affidavit does not detail incidents of violence
While the Andhra Pradesh government has alleged that Raju has been indulging in seditious activities for almost a year now, it has failed to provide instances of unrest that followed his speeches.
“…there has been a consistent and a deliberate attempt on part of the Petitioner herein to create and excite disaffection towards the State Government by creating wedge between various classes and citizens,” the affidavit stated.
Apart from annexing the transcript, the affidavit has also culled out specific portions of the speeches, which, it claims, attract the provisions of sedition law. In almost all of them, Raju has questioned the chief minister’s perceived bias towards a particular community and caste.
According to the affidavit, the statements were designed to create a wedge among people and create unrest in the state. It added that these should not to be tolerated in any civilised society.
It also said that the police were forced to initiate appropriate action only when they realised that Raju’s words were manifesting into actual violence, the affidavit said. However, the document does not disclose details of any such cases or FIRs related to incidents caused by the MP’s alleged provocative speech or incitement.
Meanwhile, Raju’s lawyer Adi Narayana Rao said that the state police did not mention any incidents of violence that took place after the leader’s speeches, as claimed in the state government’s affidavit. This was a point raised by him in the remand application before the trial court as well.
“The application mentions some general diary entries made by the station house officers of some police stations regarding protests by members of the ruling party against Raju’s speeches,” Rao told ThePrint.
He further challenged the state’s action against Raju and said that a politician’s speech cannot be used to invoke the sedition law.
“An attempt to overthrow the government by unlawful and unconstitutional methods, resulting in violence, will be sedition. If someone publicly says that he or she does not believe in elected governance and resorts to arms to overthrow the government, that will be sedition,” said Rao.
He added that a speech delivered has to be tested in totality and in the context of which it is made. “A select few lines cannot be picked up to say one has committed sedition,” he added.
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Suo motu case against Raju
In his petition, Raju asserted that in the absence of any complaint, the police cannot file a sedition case. However, the government backed the local police’s ability to file a suo motu case in the matter.
The affidavit added that the MP’s arrest was not a knee-jerk reaction as alleged by him. His statements, the state submitted, “were widely circulated on social media and were having serious consequences on the ground and people were resorting to violence against each other”.
It also said that there was intention on the accused’s part to incite one class or community to commit any offence against any other class or community.
As an elected representative, Raju owes a higher level of responsibility and he should not be permitted to use his status as a lawmaker to claim immunity, the state submitted.
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